San Diego Unified School District to return armored vehicle
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – San Diego Unified School District officials will return to the Defense Department a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected armored vehicle that spurred debate over militarizing schools, authorities said.
The MRAP was acquired through the Defense Department’s Excess Property Program and was intended to be used as a emergency rescue vehicle, according to a district statement. It was valued at more than $700,000, but the district only spent about $5,000 to bring it to San Diego, according to U-T San Diego.
“Some members of our community are not comfortable with the district having this vehicle,” Superintendent Cindy Marten said. “If any part of our community is not comfortable with it, we cannot be comfortable with it.”
District officials said Thursday that the process for returning the MRAP was underway, but government officials ordered the district to keep it until a new location has been found and the transfer could be processed.
Marten called for an ongoing dialogue among students, staff, parents, law enforcement officers and others regarding student and school safety.
“The safety and security of our students and schools is a top priority and we need to balance this priority with what the community’s perceptions are on how we best serve and protect,” she said.
“This provides us an important opportunity to have a greater dialogue with our community about what is really a common goal — providing our students a world-class education and the academic, social and physical environments they deserve.”
San Diego Unified’s police chief, Rueben Littlejohn, said that following the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, there should be sensitivity to people’s perceptions regarding the use of surplus military hardware by law enforcement agencies.
“The value that this defensive tool would bring cannot exceed the value of retaining the public’s trust, confidence and perceptions of how we will protect our students,” Littlejohn said.
He said district police officers understood the concerns regarding the armored vehicle and would continue to work with local law enforcement officials to keep students and schools safe during emergencies.
Board of Education member Scott Barnett called the acquisition a “misguided priority” and said district officials should instead lay out a plan to replace aging school police vehicles, precluding millions in maintenance costs.
He told U-T San Diego that returning the armored vehicle was “the right decision for the children and our district.”